80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
Wow. Although I can't be too shocked, I guess - I absolutely love books, but slowing down enough to really sit and savor one seems impossible these days. Life's too stressful. I just know Noli Me Tangere is going to take me all summer. And now I find myself succumbing to sins I almost never used to commit, like failing to finish books I've started, or skipping parts of books just so I can get through MOST of the work, or reading too many different things at one time.
I feel like making another "List of the Week" - though I guess I haven't been doing them weekly! Tonight it's Books that Made a Difference in My Life. Not all are favorites, necessarily, but all affected me significantly, either because I read them at a time when I was very impressionable, or because they offered just what I needed to learn at the time that I read them:
10. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone.
9. A Dove the East and Other Stories by Mark Helprin.
8. Emperor of the Air by Ethan Canin.
7. Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes.
6. Lying Awake by Mark Salzman.
5. The Little Flower by Mary Fabian Windeatt. I was in 8th grade, and it made me realize I needed to clean up my act and be a nicer person.
4. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle.
3. The Gospel of Mark - the earliest and plainest one, but by no means the easiest or "prettiest."
1. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. It was the first novel I ever read. It made me realize the true power of language and story and got me started on a life-long love of great reading and writing.
There are books I love more than many of those mentioned - Jane Eyre, Susan Summers' version of The Fourth Wise Man, and my all-time favorite, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - but the ones above repositioned my intellect or my moral compass such that it was angled a little more toward light and less toward shadow.
The musical play Missionaries by Elizabeth Swados, a heart-stopping, beautiful work about faith and courage, based on history (the story of the four church women raped and murdered in El Salvador in 1980).
The ballet Lacrymosa by Edward Stierle. I was inexpressibly moved watching a solo male dancer make his entire body sorrow - with every powerful muscle and sinew - to the music of Mozart's Requiem. There is a video of Stierle himself performing this solo here, under the link labeled "Lacrymosa Stierle," and now also on Youtube from that source. Worth seeing.
The short story The Expert on God by John L'Heureux. A perfect little gem - it said it all for me.